HEC snubs the membership and delays the fights

Report of Higher Education Committee of Friday 2nd July

Meeting for the first time since annual Congress and Sector Conferences, UCU’s Higher Education Committee decided on Friday to delay a Special HE Sector Conference (SHESC) until after the summer. 

This is despite an instruction from Sector Conference (Motion HE3) to hold a Special Higher Education Sector Conference (SHESC) in the first two weeks of August in order to progress the Four Fights and USS campaigns. This delay is unfortunate. It sets back the timing of ballots and threatens our ability to take industrial action over pay, casualisation, equalities and pensions during the autumn term.

UCU Left HEC members voted for the earliest possible date for a SHESC, but HEC voted by one vote for the latest date on offer – September 9th. Branches will now have the difficult task of meeting to submit motions before a deadline of August 23rd. 

The only minor advantage to this delay is that it should give time for the 2021-22 JNCHES dispute (UCEA’s 1.5% ‘final offer’) to come to a head so that the dispute over the 0% award of 2020-21 to be rolled over into it. But this is not a good enough reason to delay getting the campaign under way. Unison is already balloting 48 of its HE branches for action in the autumn over the 20-21 dispute. 

UCU Left motions and amendments attempting to commit USS negotiators to abide by conference positions and to initiate a ballot on USS over the summer were, unfortunately, defeated. Not only are some in the leadership intent on delay, they also want to water down the demands of members and lower the sights of what can be achieved.

This refusal by the majority on the HEC to implement the clear decisions of the policy-making body of the union is not only undemocratic, but sends a signal to our employers and the pension company that we are not serious about the fights that are necessary. The situation can be rectified but only by branches organising seriously for the September Special Conference and insisting that the campaigns are organised and the ballots are initiated.

On the positive side, a motion calling on all UCU members to make a donation of £4 or more to the Liverpool strike fund was carried, as was a motion to set up a UCU campaign group to coordinate opposition to the cuts to funding for arts courses.

A motion on Rhodes Must Fall, which had already fallen off a recent NEC agenda, was again not heard through lack of time, as was a motion on making HE safe for trans and nonbinary students.

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